UPDATED: The (tire) rubber is meeting the road

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Giti Tire celebrates U.S. factory in Chester County

By Brian Garner

Just before you get to Will Smith’s new insurance office, after you’ve passed No. 9 Junction and the Ron Wyatt insurance office, Fastenall and the new Founder’s Federal Credit Union, but before you get to the site of the new Holiday Inn Express and the new QT store, Giti Tire, Chester County’s biggest new neighbor officially opened their doors on Wednesday. We mentioned these other businesses and places that are along the same Highway 9 corridor because all of them, and more, announced their openings and expansion after Giti Tire broke ground on their $560 million U.S. factory that is expected to bring 1,700 jobs to the county.

The plant has actually been producing tires since July, a process that S.C. Governor Henry McMaster saw firsthand following a brief ceremony celebrating the Richburg, S.C. plant and their association with Walmart. McMaster was joined on a special tour by Giti Tire Chairman Dr. Enki Tan and Greg Foran, the CEO of Walmart, who got a glimpse of how Giti tires are made.

The new 1.7 million square-foot facility anticipates creating 1,700 local jobs as part of Walmart’s commitment to buy an additional $250 billion in products supporting American jobs by 2023.

According to the Giti Tire release, production at this plant for the remainder of 2017 is estimated to produce several 100,000 units of Dextero branded tires for Walmart. In 2018, capacity will reach several million tires, with more passenger and light truck sizes being added in the future.

To begin the ceremony, Giti associate Sylvester Foote said on a video produced by Walmart he came to Giti Tire “not to be just a worker. I came here to move up. I never thought I’d have a career, but I think I can do that here. The chances of me retiring from Giti are great – I know that. This job is so important to me because I have a family that is everything to me. I know if I make good tread, and mix and make good rubber, and be the employee they expect for me to be, then I’ll be able to provide for my wife and my kids,” Foote said.

In the video, John Aben, senior vice president of Sales and Marketing for Giti, said on the video, “This is a big deal for us – to have a factory in North American and to bring jobs for everybody here. We’re building tires in America, so there’s a lot of pride. But the effect it’s had has been phenomenal, especially in Chester County. I think the future for Chester County looks very good right now,” Aben said.

Chester County Supervisor Shane Stuart agreed. In his opening remarks, Stuart said, “In 2014, Giti officials, led by Dr. Enki Tan, made an announcement that continues to reshape our economic future. An announcement that highlighted our greatest resource – our people.”

“With today’s ceremony, Giti Tire has become Chester County’s BMW…it has become our Boeing. We have said it before and we’ll say it again: We thank Giti Tire for choosing Chester,” Stuart said.

Stuart advised the next speaker, the chairman of Giti Tire Dr. Enki Tan, to become a cardiologist because, “You sir, have a heart for the people.”

Dr. Tan welcomed everyone to Giti Tire, including the Ambassador of Singapore to the United States, Governor McMaster, First Lady Peggy McMaster and the CEO of Walmart, Greg Foran.

This is a truly historic occasion for Giti, Walmart and South Carolina. We've invested about $560 million dollars in this state-of-the-art plant. It will create 1,700 jobs over the next several years. Total economic impact, direct and indirect to Chester County and the I-77 Alliance is forecasted to be almost 5,000 jobs.

“And an impact to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $1.2 billion a year,” he said.

“Giti is proud to partner with Walmart's investing in American jobs initiative. We are very honored to be the largest supplier to date to invest in this initiative,” Dr. Tan said.

“The journey to this moment took almost three years to plan. The location for our new home was chosen to be here in Chester, S.C. because of their hospitality and because they made Giti feel part of the family.

“The site was chosen because it was supported by a strong infrastructure, proximity to a sea port and international hubs and airports, technical and high education and a skilled workforce.”

“We don't just want to create jobs; we want to create jobs for the future. As we move into the Fourth Industrial Revolution, we are creating jobs here – not just manufacturing jobs, but jobs in nanotechnology, into IoT, the Internet of Things, into robotics, and into precision engineering. We hope our associates will grow with us, and we will attract the best people in South Carolina and in the region to join with us for the future,” he said.

He said Giti also partners with the Chester County School District to support STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) programs.

“We like to encourage young kids to be passionate about science and technology so they can build the future with us,” he said.

He pointed out Giti's commitment to the environment, noting that as visitors drove onto the plant site, they could see that as many trees as possible were being conserved, as well as the natural waterways and the wildlife.

“It's our aim to offset all of the carbon dioxide that we produce as a company, more than a million metric tons a year; we have planted almost half a million trees and we are part of reforestation programs in multiple countries. We want you to drive on our products, but you can drive on them with low carbon emissions,” he said.

Giti collaborates with Walmart in multiple countries and was honored to be named Automotive Supplier of the Year in 2015. Giti is producing the Dextero brand of tires for Walmart stores in the U.S.

In his comments during the Walmart video, Governor Henry McMaster said the collaboration between Walmart and Giti was “a powerful combination.”

“They could have gone anywhere in the world and they're here. For a country to be strong, you have to make things. This is another sign of the vitality and the manufacturing capacity of the people of South Carolina. Buckle up your seatbelt, because we have been discovered.”

In his remarks at the ceremony, Gov. McMaster listed some of the state's assets: South Carolina has three great research universities, a busy port, the best technical college and workforce development community in the U.S., plenty of power and great weather.

“The ingenuity, the innovation, the strength and determination that is exemplified by these two companies, Giti and Walmart, is just off the scale. We are delighted to have this combination of these two great companies here in South Carolina.”

In his remarks, Walmart CEO Greg Foran said he was very impressed by what he saw at Giti Tire.

This is just an awesome development...when you consider the amount of investment that has gone in here. This building is 1.7 million square feet, and Giti is bringing in 1,700 jobs...this goes a long way in helping us fulfill our mission of Made in the USA. We have an ambition that by 2023 we're going to be doing $250 billion worth of business. That's a pretty significant goal for anyone to take on, but I can tell you this goes a long way to help us getting there,” he said.

Foran told the story about Walmart representatives asking Giti Tire reps how soon they could put the “opening price points,” the first set of a new item that Walmart puts on the shelf. He said most companies ask how many they need (Walmart told Giti they needed about 500,000 tires) and most companies need to talk to their supply chain and delivery people and give them a date of about several weeks. Giti Tire told Walmart four hours later they could provide the needed amount of tires.

“That says something about being able to do a deal very quickly. I think that’s reflective of how this state operates; it moves with speed and they do deals on a handshake,” he said.

Then Foran quoted Governor McMaster, who was reported in a previous N&R article saying South Carolina’s future was so bright, that he would need to save his solar eclipse glasses.

“I think the future is going to get even a little bit brighter,” Foran said, and presented the governor with a pair of Walmart eclipse glasses.

Armand Allaire, senior vice president of sales then took the podium and presented an enthusiastic overview of the Giti story.

“There’s a story about tire plants having a certain odor. I’m suspecting that some of you have detected a scent, an odd perfume if you will. It’s not one that comes from a boutique – you are smelling excitement. You are smelling a scent that comes from committed people in this great state of South Carolina…it’s made right here in America. We will not bottle this essence, instead, we will generate it daily, by committed people, dedicated men and women making Giti tires and delivering speed to market, which is expected by the global community, but more specifically by our fellow Americans,” he said.

“This is what we do!” Allaire exclaimed.